Photo by Tamie Meck Wrestling in the 2A Region 1 semifinals, Paonia 195-pounder Tyler “TK” Kendall sets Rangely’s Drew Collins up for a pin. Kendall, a senior who played basketball his junior year, was undefeated to claim the regional title.The No. 1 ranked Paonia Eagles powered their way through the 2A Region 1 wrestling tournament, qualifying 13 wrestlers for state competition, which opens tomorrow at the Pepsi Center in Denver. In 2012, Paonia was the second team in state history to qualify for state in all 14 weight classes (a record still not mentioned in the Colorado High School Activities Association's record books).
In 2011, they sent 12 to state.
Paonia claimed eight regional champions Saturday and earned 304 points to win its sixth consecutive regional team title. Dove Creek was second with 189.5 points, and Meeker placed third with 164.5 points.
Josh Altman (113), Jesse Reed (120) and Tony Darling (285) claimed their second regional title. Also wrestling to first place were freshman Bo Pipher at 126, sophomore Gunnar Chesnik at 138, juniors William Austin at 170 and Joel Simianer at 220, and senior Tyler Kendall at 195.
While he's been deep into state baseball playoffs, this is Kendall's first foray into state wrestling. After wrestling on the junior varsity team his freshman and sophomore years, he spent last winter playing basketball.
"It's been pretty fun, it's been pretty crazy," said Kendall, who opened the season at 182, then lost a wrestle-off to Morgan Reider and was moved up to 195.
Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia freshman Bo Pipher sets TJ Richard of North Park up for a pin in Saturday’s regional semifinal round. Pipher pinned his way to the Region 1 title and is one of 13 Paonia wrestlers to qualify for the 2A state tournament, which opens Thursday."I was hoping to qualify and place at state. That was my goal," said Kendall, whose dad, Donnie Kendall, wrestled for Paonia High School and "loves wrestling." His cousin, Andy Laiminger, was a four-time state placer for the Eagles. "Now I want to do a little more," said Kendall. He enters state competition seeded at No. 3 and with a 24-4 record.
Kendall gave credit to head coach Andy Pipher for his success. A lot of people had their doubts, he said, but those doubts just fueled his motivation. Pipher told him, "You treat every match like it's the toughest match you'll ever have, so that's what I do." After discovering he could have a great season, he had to deal with getting over-confident, "because that's when you get beat."
Of the 12 wrestlers who went into Saturday's semifinal round, two — Ty Coats at 145, and Zach Milner at 152 — were defeated. Coats and Milner, along with 132-pound senior Dylan Stroud, all wrestled back to place third.
Jorge Quinonez (160) and Reider were seeded at No. 1 and both lost by decision in the championship round to place second.
Seven Eagles wrestlers, Altman, Reed, Coats, Quinonez, Reider, Simianer and Darling, are returning state qualifiers.
This will be the third year for Coats to compete at the state tournament.
"It'll be fun," said Kendall. "This team's pretty good."